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Space shuttle Discovery will carry two research projects by Miami botanist

03/31/2010

Working on preparations for the space shuttle Biological Research in Canisters (BRIC) project, from left to right: John Kiss, Christina Johnson, Kathy Millar and Richard Edelman.
The space shuttle Discovery, scheduled to launch April 5, will return to Earth 13 days later carrying two research projects led by Miami University botany professor John Kiss.

One experiment will be performed on the middeck of the shuttle in the Biological Research in Canisters (BRIC) system. The shuttle also will bring back Kiss' research, Tropi-2, from the International Space Station, where it was delivered in early February.

Kiss’ new BRIC experiment will focus on the role of plant actin cytoskeleton, which is critical for the maintenance of cell shape and structure. It is suspected to play an important role in the gravitational response of plants.

The Tropi-2 research, which involved two six-day experiments on the International Space Station, focuses on understanding how light and gravity affect plant growth.

Plants may be able to be used in regenerative life support on Mars or the moon, according to Kiss. Future astronauts could be able to grow plants as part of life support systems on long-term space missions, according to NASA.

Kiss, who is also chair of the department of botany at Miami, has been awarded more than $1 million by NASA for his space flight research.

Richard Edelman, director of Miami’s electron microscopy facility, is co-principal investigator in the BRIC experiment. Postdoctoral scholar Kathy Millar also is involved in the project.

Assisting in the BRIC research are graduate students Christina Johnson and Jane Hopkins, and undergraduate students Katie Huntoon, Jessica Hall and Caitlin Bregitzer.

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